Nearly perfect – Rosetta

I’m not one for hyperbole – I save the ‘superbs’, ‘ and ‘fabulous’s’ and ‘legendary’s’ for those who deserve them. I would direct all three words to singers Sarah Vaughan or Maria Callas. Or to a little restaurant I used to like in Rome. But rarely do I sing such glorious praises to anyone or anything in my hometown.
However, a new Italian restaurant has opened its heavy Porfiriato doors in the Colonia Roma and some hyperbolic declarations are waiting in the wings, because this place is good. Very good. Nearly perfect.
A lovely old mansion which had seen several previous incarnations (the last as an art gallery) has been lovingly restored by chef and owner Elena Reygadas and her husband, architect Jaime Serra. On the ground floor, tables are set in a high-ceilinged covered patio whose white walls are decorated with lightly brushed, discreet floral motifs. Furniture is country rustic, more reminiscent of Provence than Mexico – appropriate, perhaps to the Francophile culture of the era. Tables are set with vintage-looking linens. Eclectic ‘world’ music softly serenades, creating a post-modern House of Mirth ambience. “It smells like varnish and fresh baked bread”, Priscilla remarked on entering, her nose pleasantly crinkled. And it should: they bake their own breads here, and make the unusually shaped fresh pastas as well.
The smart, reasonably sized menu was designed by chef Reygadas. She trained under a bevy of multi-regional Italian chefs in, of all places, London, then traveled through the mother country itself gleaning the best recipes she could find. Offered are traditional Italian dishes, but not the ones you’re likely to see in any other restaurant outside Italy. You’ll find curious pastas like the lumpy malfatti and the little ear-shaped oricchietti. No clichés here. The chef chooses classic and traditional recipes according to what is seasonal and inspirational in the market. She brightens them up, but there is no unnecessary gussying or ‘re-inventing’. She states emphatically that her recipes are “deceptively simple”; she concentrates on using the finest temporal ingredients, and orients her menu to the climate as well. For example, as April and May being the warmest months here, she’s offering lighter, summery fare: asparagus risotto, a green legume salad. She’ll save the heavy red wine sauces and ragus for winter. Recipes are indeed simple, often containing no more than five ingredients. The trick is in the quick and expert combining and melding of these elements, which, not incidentally, are usually artisanal and of the highest quality. “It’s difficult to procure great basic materials here,” she laments. “Meat, for example, often arrives pre-cut and frozen. We look for whole animals that we can cut up ourselves so as to make stocks and sauces as well as prepare meats and fish the way I think they should be done.”
Currently, nine ‘entradas’ and nine pastas or risotti and six meat and fish dishes are offered. Standouts on my last visit were sardinas a la plancha con panzanella: ocean fresh sardines are drizzled with fruity green olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and lightly grilled; they are served on a bed of panzanella, the classic Tuscan bread salad. This is a perfect combination, the tart cubes of vinegared bread tango with the smoky oily fish like dancers at a Milonga. A springtime salad of ejotitos y habas (baby green beans and fava beans), spruced with shavings of parmesan, was fresh and herbaceous. Pulpo laminado con aceite de olivo y limon presented thin slices of octopus lightly dressed with an excellent olive oil – something you would be happy to be served in the Veneto.
I enjoyed my orecchiette con chicharros y pancetta so much the first time, the sweet peas and smoky pancetta melding so perfectly with the little cup shaped pastas, that I considered ordering it again. But I also needed to try the malfatti (literally “badly made”) relleno de papa con pimientos al romero. These tender ravioli-like morsels were creamy rich and aromatic. And the pappardelle con hígado de pollo y salvia was perfection itself; the wide (and house made) pappardelle play host to chicken livers which are lifted out of the banal by sweet butter and perfumey sage.
From the meat and fish menu, a simple robalo a la plancha con alcachofas y arúgala was prepared as it should be, juices sealed in, augmented but not overwhelmed by the green aromatics. Less successful was the short rib con polenta rústica, whose heart-warmingly fragrant sauce was a bit too sweet, approaching the cloying. Curiously, ‘corned beef en pan campesino con pickles caseros’ closes the menu; a nod to Passover perhaps? A gift to the stray Italian Jew who happens to wander in?
Desserts are standard but well done: try the cannoli, best I've had since Little Italy, shells crunchy, inards creamy. Or better yet, are the delightful plátanos con crema de chocolate.
The best news is that prices are reasonable...many main dishes are under $150 pesos; a full meal should be under $500 per, which, given the quality, are pesos well spent. There is a good wine list with a mercifully wide range of prices, some as low as $350; the lower end selections are decent, as they should be.
It should be mentioned that the restaurant also functions as a bakery, and fine quality bread, foccacia, and pastries are on sale from 9AM on.
Few places in the ‘real’ Roma are as pretty or as good as Rosetta. It is a welcome and needed addition to the area. Buona provata!
Colima #166 (just east of Orizaba)
Open Monday - Saturday (closed Sunday)
Panaderia from 9 00 am
Restaurant from 2 00 pm - 11 00 pm

Reservationes: 5533 7804

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